Monday, April 29, 2013


A river runs through it.  Nah, that’s Idaho, right?  The cowboy state?  No, I think that’s Wyoming.  Big sky something?  Big sky country?  Yup, that’s it.

10. Otter

Imagine naming a whole town after your favorite Animal House character.  What a brilliant idea!  I love it.

Seriously, I’m assuming this place was named after the animal.  You know, lontra canadensis.

Otter the town is in the southeast part of the state – in the middle of pretty much nowhere.  I count one house.  I’m not totally sure why they even bothered.

So, what I want to know is, where’s Flounder?  How about Bluto?  Dean Wormer? 

I think vegetables can be very sensuous, don't you?

9. Pony

Hmm, not sure I remember this character.  Was he an Omega?

Well, it turns out this place was named after somebody nicknamed Pony.  He was an early settler and gold miner however (and not an Omega).  Nobody actually remembers his real name for sure.

Pony is an old gold mining town.  It once had a population of 5000, but has barely 100 today.  There are, however, plenty of picturesque abandoned buildings.  In fact, you can find Pony prominently covered on

Great article here about the local bar.

8. Happy’s Inn

Was this the place where Otis Day and the Knights played?

Well, they may very well have once.  The place the town was named after seems to have been here forever, and also to contain pretty much everything you’d ever want all under one roof – grocery store, laundromat, restaurant, bar, casino, motel, sporting goods store, gas station, post office, and who knows what else.

The inn – and town – is in the very northwest part of the state.  There’s a very picturesque chain of lakes nearby, with great fishing.

They call it a "resort"

7. Pompey’s Pillar

Or perhaps it was Pompey’s Pillar … 

Great story on this one …  From the website of the Pompey’s Pillar National Monument:

Pompeys Pillar is one of the most famous sandstone buttes in America.  It bears the only remaining physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which appears on the trail today as it did 200 years ago.  On the face of the 150-foot butte, Captain William Clark carved his name on July 25, 1806, during his return to the United States through the beautiful Yellowstone Valley.

Captain Clark named the Pillar "Pompeys Tower" in honor of Sacagawea's son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, whom he had nicknamed "Pomp."  Nicholas Biddle, first editor of Lewis and Clark's journals, changed the name to "Pompeys Pillar."

By the way, though I’m not sure all expedition members got the allusion, Captain Clark was getting all classical on everyone.  The original Pompey’s Pillar is a Roman triumphal column in Alexandria, Egypt.

Pompey’s Pillar the town in Montana has about a dozen houses and is in the south central part of the state, right along the Yellowstone River and Interstate 94.

William Clark’s John Hancock

6. Big Arm

Okay, enough with the Animal House references already.  The thing was filmed in Oregon after all.

From here on out, we’ll emphasize weird.  And Big Arm is weird. 

Big Arm (or, if you prefer, k̓upawi¢q̓nuknana, in the native Ktunaxa language) is simply an arm of the much larger (and most wonderfully named) Flathead Lake.  How disappointingly prosaic!  The village that was named after it is basically a little resort town right smack in the middle of the Big Arm State Park.

You are here

5. Lodge Grass

Weird.  As is the explanation:

The town was named for Lodge Grass Creek, which empties nearby into the Little Bighorn.  The Indians called the stream "Greasy Grass" because the grass was so nourishing that it made their animals fat.  The words for "grease" and "lodge" are so similar in the Crow language that an interpreter mistakenly translated the phrase as Lodge Grass.  (from Roberta Cheney's Names on the Face of Montana)

I don’t know, I think I much prefer the alliteration and imagery of Greasy Grass. 

The town has 400-some people and is in the center of state – near Pompey’s Pillar, in fact.  Some “notable residents” (none of which I am making up) include:
  • Thomas Yellowtail
  • Kevin Red Star
  • Joe Medicine Crow
  • Hairy Moccasin
  • White Man Runs Him

Cool old train depot

4. Crow Agency       

Really weird.  Though rather easily explained.  The crow part comes from the Crow Indian tribe.  An agency was simply a local government office to support the tribe.

Crow Agency has a population of 1,600 and is the capital of the Crow Nation.  The annual Crow Fair, which can include up to 1,500 teepees, is held here.  Little Bighorn Monument (AKA Custer’s Last Stand) is also very nearby.  We’re in the south central part of the state by the way – not that far from Pompey’s Pillar and Lodge Grass.

By the by, Montana also features a Crow Rock and a Fort Belknap Agency.

Say that second one three times fast
(Ah heck, say it once slow)

3. Two Dot

Weird, but cute.  And with a great name origin story to boot (here, from Wikipedia):

The town got its name from the cattle brand of George R. Wilson (1830-1907), who donated the land for the town. "Two Dot Wilson" had a cattle brand that was simply two dots, placed side by side on the hip of his cattle.

This town of 76 is right in the middle of Montana, right along the wonderfully named Musselshell River.  I count 20 buildings tops.

Hank Williams, Jr. put the town on the map with a 1983 song, Twodot Montana.  Here’s the chorus:

I've climbed up the rockies and swam down the Snake
I spent winters trapping in the Missouri breaks
This ain't the first time I've been in a jam
I'm from Twodot Montana and I don't give a damn

Another town centered
around the local bar
(I think I’m beginning to like this state)

2. Hungry Horse

More weird.  As is this explanation I found on the Internets somewhere:

The town of Hungry Horse was indeed named after two draft horses used for logging the area when they wandered off during the severe winter of 1900.  The horses, Tex and Jerry, were found a month later, all scraggly and hungry but very much alive.  As visitors today drive through Hungry Horse on their way to and from Glacier National Park, there are statuesque reminders of the hungry horses.

I was thinking this had to be after some Native American dude. 

This major metropolis of almost 1000 is famous for:
  • Its proximity to Glacier National Park
  • The nearby Hungry Horse Dam
  • Huckleberries
  • The Hungry Horse News (Montana’s only Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper)
  • The International Larix Arboretum (“dedicated to the scientific study of the larch”)

Get it?

1. Rocky Boy

Downright bizarre. 

Okay, this one is from some Native American dude – namely, one Chief Asiniiwin, who went by the nickname of “Otter.”  Excuse me, “Rocky Boy.” 

A better translation would actually be “Stone Child.”  Now, why anyone would want to name someone “Stone Child” (or “Rocky Boy, or “Petrified Progeny,” or "Otter," or whatever) is totally beyond me. 

Rocky Boy is the center of the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation.  It has a library, the local high school and middle schools, and various tribal agencies. 

Mr. Rocky Boy

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Plains, Ridge, Heath, Marsh, Centerville, Montana City
  • Short & sweet – Stone, Straw, Belt, Zero, Lolo, Ulm, Babb
  • Just a little out of place – Nevada City, Boulder, Cleveland, Buffalo, Utica, Manhattan, Harlem, Potomac, Virginia City, Lima, Andes, Devon, Dunkirk, Glasgow, Inverness, Waterloo, Amsterdam, Zurich, Florence, Malta, Belgrade, Kremlin, Troy, Jordan, Sumatra, Paradise 
  • Orthographically challenged – Sonnette, Beltower, Floweree, Froid, Yaak
  • Numerically oriented – First Creek, Twin Bridges, Three Forks, Four Corners, Nine Mile, Sixteen
  • Atypical adjectives – Superior, Peerless, Mammoth, Hardy, Stark, Savage
  • Unconventional verbs – Reserve, Divide, Locate, Pray
  • Abnormal nouns – Wisdom, Power, Lustre, Moccasin, Antelope, Anaconda, Roundup, Rivulet, Cascade, Basin, Circle, Ledger, Emigrant, Outlook, Intake, Knobs
  • Fun to say – Charlo, Perma, Plevna, Piltzville, Zortman, Apgar
  • Just plain weird – Jeff Island, Miller Colony, Milford Colony, Frenchtown, Flaxville, Powderville, Plentywood, Polebridge, Half Moon, Silver Star, Gold Stone, Gallatin Gateway, Cat Creek, Telegraph Creek, Yellowtail, Fishtail, Whitefish, White Haven, Wise River, West Glacier, Beehive, Bigfork, Big Timber, Big Sandy, Sand Coulee, Swan Lake, Medicine Lake, Medicine Springs, Box Elder, Blackfoot, Red Lion, Lame Deer, Sleeping Buffalo
  • What a butte! – Four Buttes, Heart Butte, Square Butte
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Olive, Enid, Mildred, Geraldine, Winifred, Dagmar, Roy, Leroy, Ollie, Clancy, Old Chico, Garryowen
  • Ghost towns Maiden, Fox, Comet, Cable, Bowler, Bearmouth, Lion City, Zortman, Giltedge

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